TAKE HEED: The night is dark and full of spoilers.
Game of Thrones is back. The programme that’s popularity is the only thing bigger than its cast list has returned for a sixth season and its just as bloody and bloody brilliant as ever. In case you’ve somehow avoided hearing what Game of Thrones is about, to paraphrase Charlie Brooker’s description of Torchwood, its Lord of the Rings with more decapitations and cumshots, which I think we can all agree is what the prudish sourpuss Tolkein’s series was missing. So this is normally the point where I’d tell you all about the basic synopsis and the protagnoist but it would be too long a discussion to even begin to approach who the main character of this show is so lets just say its Westeros, like New York it’s practically a main character.
The episode begins with Jon Snow (Kit Harington) , he’s still dead, Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) and the goodies of the Nights Watch who didn’t stab Snow take him inside and plot revenge, clearly they have to ask the wildlings for help but I think we’ll have to wait till next episode to discuss that, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) is happily awaiting the arrival of her daughter Myrcella and somewhat less happily her brother/baby-daddy/rapist Jamie (Nikolai Coster Waldau), even less happily she finds that her daughter is dead and she aligns herself with Jamie somehow having forgotten what happened in their son’s crypt (the North remembers, Jamie), Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Varys (Conleith Hill) are wandering around Mereen trying to stop everything going to shit since Danaerys (Emilia Clarke) flew away on her dragon and got kidnapped by Dothraki, Jorah Mormont (interesting note: Iain Glen is given ‘With…’ Credit at the end of the credits, suggesting that Jorah might be somehow relevant to the plot this season) and Dario Naharis (Michael Huisman) are off trying to find Danaerys and Jorah is still trying to hide that he has the stoneperson illness, while Danaerys manages to talk her way out of being raped by another Khal but appears to be headed to a retirement home for widows of Khals, also that whole not going to shit thing, someone’s burnt all the boats in Mereen so yeah, it’s going to shit, Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), Podrick (Daniel Portman), Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Reek (Alfie Allen) have formed a Team of Superfriends devoted to preserving the last shreds of innocence in Westeros, Arya (Maisie Williams) is still blind and now homeless again but at least someone is training her to become Daredevil, the Sand Snakes have killed the Dornish royal family because they wanted a good girl but needed bad pussy, the Boltons turned up to remind us that they’re still here as well, Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) is still being imprisoned by High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) who is preventing her from seeing her brother ( because he’s off becoming Netflix’s Iron Fist), her husband King Tommen or her profitable high-class crisp brand, the dickheads of the Nights Watch offer Davos and the goodies a chance to leave in peace as long as they don’t fight back but we all know this doesn’t end without a fight next week, this is GoT after all, oh and for one final twist, The Red Woman (Carice Van Houten) is secretly really old, like really old and really naked. What any of this means, well, we’ll just have to keep watching to find out.
GoT never really does its best work in its season premieres. So important is the moving of chess pieces that it can often forget to do anything other than set up for future more interesting weeks. Its the same problem that can often plague their season finales. Note that all big events in the GoTverse seem to occur around episode four or nine. It’s also worth noting that the longer the show has gone on, the more fractured its plots have become with intersections becoming increasingly more sparse. With this in note, the opening episode did a good job of setting up a dozen stories and keeping me both guessing and interested in where they are headed. Each individual plotline is well constructed but its hard to say if it really cohered to a satisfying whole as it was more seeing a series of scenes in the same world than an actual episode of television with a beginning, middle and an end. As a series of beginnings, it worked well enough.
It doesn’t really need to be said at this point that the direction, cinematography, score, performances and overall production aspects were exceptional(the first shots of the boats of Mereen burning were particularly beautiful in their destructive quality). One of the true glories of the high-budget is the ability to present a variety of location shoots instead of set work, it allows Westeros to feel like a fully inhabited world instead of a greenscreen and some warehouses made to look like castles. But effects-wise, this episode is all about Van Houten’s old person make-up. I will admit that when she started de-robing, I expected it to be another gratuitous Thrones nude-shot but using it as a way of revealing something new about the character, I don’t know if it excuses the blatant satisfaction of the ‘tits’ quota that I believe HBO secretly enforce on their television shows, but it certainly created a visually compelling and convincingly portrayed way of showing that The Red Woman is much, much older than we thought and as a result far more interesting.
I don’t have much more to say about this episode as it was a bit business as usual. I can’t think of one plot that I think doesn’t have potential but as the same time, I’m not in a position to judge any of them based on what I’ve seen so far. I’m hoping that the latest battle in the war between the watch and the wildlings comes next week as this programme really needs an early injection of adrenaline or it risks coming off as just build-up (or as I call it, Season Five). Still let’s see where it goes, I trust Benioff and Weiss to take us all on a journey, not the one we necessarily want but certainly the one that we deserve. That said, I hope they leave Jon Snow dead, I know they won’t but I didn’t miss his blank little broody pout at all.
Silicon Valley and Veep Update:
The two comedy series that are in a block of excellence ( HBO or Sky Atlantic depending on where you’re reading this from) with GoT represent the one major problem for Thrones; I look forward to them far more than it. This week Silicon Valley returned with not only its funniest but potentially its most dramatically potent, highlights include TJ Miller’s Erlich listing bad old person putdowns and RIGBY, you’ll understand if you watch it, Veep also managed to prove it hasn’t missed a single step despite the loss of Armando Ianucci at the helm. Overall, a potentially vintage week for both shows that in their respective third and forth seasons have certainly reached Must-Watch status.